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If Jesus was celibate (which he indeed was), and we are to follow in his footsteps in this earthly life (which is heavily implied in Christianity), what prevents mere mortals from having to be celibate as well? As a consequence, does not this line of reasoning lead to the perishment of humans as a species?

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  • See Matthew 3:9 and Luke 3:8.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 4:14
  • so you think only the wicked should procreate?
    – Steve
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 5:06
  • I heard that the Catholic Pope heard wrong. He didn't say the priests were to be celibate, he actually said they should celebrate! :)
    – Ruminator
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 13:35

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It is clear why, for the Saviour Himself said about a great value and meaning of a marital life even to the extent of relativizing the Law - which allowed for a divorce - as something that was not initially, but became necessary only because of hardening of hearts of the people of the chosen nation (Matthew 19:8). Thus, since Jesus asserts such a great responsibility of marriage, He necessarily asserts also the holiness and acceptability of marriage in His Godly perspective.

However, He Himself is celibate and also affirms that those who want to follow Him in this, are free to do so, but this requires a special disposition of human will coupled with divine aid, for "not everybody can contain it, but they to whom it is given" (19:11), and thus the command of the Lord is "whoever can contain it, let them contain", for He clearly gives an approval of those who made themselves eunuchs for the Eternal Kingdom (Matthew 19:12), where there is angelic state, i.e. no more sex (Matthew 22:30) and sexual differences do not matter.

This is well understood by Paul, who on the one hand claims that "marriage is holy and marriage bed undefiled" (Hebrews 13:4), but on the other hand himself refrains from marriage and even suggests that he finds himself in a caring position of warding unmarried Christians from some difficulties of married life wishing them to imitate his, Paul's celibacy (1 Cor. 7:28), which he also utilises for a more intensive preaching of Gospel than other, married apostles (1 Cor. 9:5). But Paul does not put himself higher than married Peter either, of course, for in his eyes celibacy does not make one higher than a married. Paul stresses on convenience here and not that a celibate is better or higher than a married man. In another place he bitterly reprimands those perverters of Gospel who see evil in marriage (1 Tim. 4:3).

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That Christians are called to imitate Jesus is beyond dispute, eg, 1 John 2:6, John 13:34, 35, 15:12, 1 John 4:8, 11, 19, Eph 5:1, 2, John 16:33, 1 Cor 7:28, 2 Tim 1:4, Heb 13:12, 13, 1 Peter 2:21.

However, and this is the crux of the matter, such an imitation is always in the character and morality of Jesus and does NOT include every detail of Jesus life. For example, the following things cannot (and need not) be imitated by all Christians:

  • Jesus was Jewish
  • Jesus was male
  • Jesus was a preacher
  • Jesus was a trained construction worker and carpenter
  • Jesus was born to a virgin
  • Jesus wore a beard
  • Jesus wore a seamless robe (which the soldiers gamboled over!)
  • Jesus only wore sandals
  • Jesus never took a car or mechanized transport but only walked everywhere
  • Jesus only lived and preached in Palestine

... and so forth. The Bible NEVER asks us to imitate any of these characteristics of Jesus. However, there are numerous other characteristics of Jesus that we are asked to imitate such as:

  • Walk as Jesus walked. 1 John 2:6.

  • Jesus was led by the Spirit Matt 4:1. The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18).

  • Love as Jesus loved. John 13:34, 35, 15:12, 1 John 4:8, 11, 19, Eph 5:1, 2.

  • Lay down life for friends. John 15:13, Eph 5:2.

  • Jesus’ suffering leaves us an example. John 16:33, 1 Cor 7:28, 2 Tim 1:4, Heb 13:12, 13, 1 Peter 2:21.

  • Because Jesus was persecuted, so are His followers. John 15:20, 21.

  • Transforming our will and bodies to conform to God’s will. Rom 12:1, 2.

  • Jesus was baptised (Matt 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21, 22) and so should we be baptised, Matt 28:19, Acts 2:38, 10:48, 16:31, 22:16, Rom 6:1-9, etc. See “Baptism”.

  • Forgive as Jesus forgave. Matt 6:12, 14, 15, 18:35, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13.

  • Be imitators of God. Eph 5:1.

  • Be holy as Jesus is holy. Lev 11:44, 45, 1 Peter 1:15, 16.

  • Be pure as He is pure. 1 John 3:3.

  • Partakers of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4.

  • We are being changed into Christ’s glory (= reputation). 2 Cor 3:18.

  • Pray as Jesus prayed. Luke 11:1.

  • We are to have the mind of Christ. Phil 2:5, 1 Cor 2:16.

  • Be kind because God is kind. Luke 6:34, 35.

  • Be merciful because God is merciful. Luke 6:36.

  • Be servants to others as Jesus was. John 13:15-17, 1 Peter 4:11b, Matt 20:24-28.

  • Be patient as Jesus was patient. 1 Tim 1:16.

  • Talk/speak as Jesus speaks. 1 Peter 4:11a.

  • Be “perfect” (= mature and generous to enemies) as the Father is. Matt 5:48.

  • Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved His people and gave Himself for her. Eph 5:25.

  • Keep the commandments as Jesus kept the commandments. John 15:10.

  • Abide in Christ as Christ abides in us. John 15:4.

  • Jesus is the “beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13) and Jesus is the beginning and end of our faith (Heb 12:2).

  • We are co-heirs with Christ of glory. Rom 8:17.

  • Jesus gave his all and we must give up all things for Him. Rom 8:32.

  • Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19) and so are His followers (John 10:1-18, 21:15-17)

  • Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) and so should we (John 13:14-17)

  • Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:4, 9, 8:12, 9:5) and so are we (Matt 5:14-16)

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    I have never seen anyone here on SE post an answer this long in such a short period of time, at the same time actually answering the OP's question in tiny detail. Thank you so much for this answer, my friend!
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 21:29
  • Excellent answer.
    – DonJewett
    Commented Oct 22, 2020 at 21:36
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    @Dottard "such an imitation is always in the character and morality of Jesus"[end quote]. I would object that not only morality but also ontology, for everybody will be like Jesus in His celibacy, because the sexual relationship in marriage is a divine concession - and as such a blessed one indeed - for human falledness, whereas in the Heavenly Kingdom sex will be abolished, and even on earth some people are so saturated by grace that they need not sexual life for feeling happy in God, like Apostle Paul, for instance. Thus, Jesus' celibacy has ontological and eternal dimension for all humans. Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 6:22
  • @LevanGigineishvili - I agree with you in the topological and spiritual sense that you discuss. However, I understood the OP to be asking about literal celibacy in this life, hence my reply.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 6:42
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    @Dottard Thanks! Yes, I agree that the question was objectively rather about this life. However, I would tend to agree with the a tradition in Christianity that puts celibacy above (without any arrogance of course) the married life, in the sense that a happy celibate (which is an extremely rare phenomenon!) who does not need sex for feeling happy and strives not towards embrace of woman (or man in woman's case) but immediately towards God, manifests the intensity of divine grace in himself, or herself, if it is she. A happy celibate, happy immediately through Christ, is a miracle. Commented Oct 24, 2020 at 21:25
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Indeed if in an ideal world all ought to be celibate, then there would be no one left to practice celibacy.

Matthew 19:

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

By the natural order of things, as ordained by God, it had been made so that men and women are to be united and never to be separated.

However, the disciples overhearing the conversation, comment the following:

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

Jesus says that if you are unable to heed to this ruling, then it is praiseworthy to remain celibate:

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore we are to assume, that according to Jesus all ought to marry, and whoever cannot but break his rulings should remain celibate.

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